5 key elements of a strong client testimonial
As a freelancer, one of the most effective ways to sell yourself to new clients is to allow your old clients to do it for you. By letting old clients sing your praises to prospective leads in testimonials, you build social proof and establish your personal brand.
You prove to everyone who sees these reviews that you’re worth your salt and customers who choose to work with you always leave happy.
All testimonials, however, were not created equally. Some do a better job of building your credibility than others. In this post, I’ll identify five main attributes that set apart the effective, brand-building testimonials from the mediocre client reviews.
1. Appealing formatting
The first trait of a winning testimonial actually has nothing to do with the actual testimonial itself, but regardless, is incredibly important for the testimonial to be fruitful.
As with all things on your website (or wherever you decide to post testimonials), aesthetics are absolutely crucial. Appealing visuals create a sense of comfort in the visitor’s mind, and display your professionalism to the client.
Similarly, a poor aesthetic will turn off visitors to your site, especially if your services are in the WordPress design or development industry. After all, if you can’t build an appealing website for yourself, how can your leads trust you to build one for them?
So as you post testimonials to your website, keep the visual aspect in mind. Make sure your testimonials are clearly separate from anything else on the page so readers can quickly identify them for what they are. (For instance, you could place a speech bubble design around each testimonial). Always include a headshot of the client to create a personal touch. Finally, remember to format each of your testimonials in the same way to keep them consistent.
2. Specific results
Another crucial attribute of a winning testimonial is the mention of specific results you created for the client. When your clients talk about how exactly you created improvements for them, prospective customers grow more confident in your ability to do the same for them.
Think of it this way: let’s say that you run a business, and you’re in the process of trying to find a PR agency to help you build a media presence. As you shop around trying to find the right fit for you, which agency would you rather go with: the one that a client wrote “helped us a lot,” or the one that a client said “helped us increase media mentions by three times and built connections with over 20 influencers.”
The specificity of the latter testimonial demonstrates to your leads the tangible, concrete value you provided in the past for clients. Consequently, the leads believe in your ability to satisfy their needs.
3. Mentions punctuality
One of the biggest fears that businesses generally have with using freelance contractors is punctuality. It’s much easier to keep employees on schedule when you’re able to meet with them face-to-face and have sit-down talks. When emails are the primary mode of communication, however, it’s easy for contractors to delay projects without reason.
You can help prevent this customer inhibition by making sure that your clients mention in their testimonials how punctual you were with the project. If customers directly state that you delivered each project milestone at or before the appointed time, prospective customers are assured of your reliability to stick religiously to deadlines.
4. Focuses on ease of communication
Another common worry with freelance employees is communication. As I’ve discussed earlier on Layout (link to on-point client communication post), on-point client communication is absolutely key to a successful project. Poor freelancer-client communication sets up a shaky foundation that will undermine the progress of the job at every point.
Your prospective customers realize this and thus search for contractors who are not only punctual and reliable, but also easy to communicate with. In your testimonials, get clients to put in a line or two of how you were “a pleasure to work with” or “always on hand to discuss the project.” Such simple phrases go a long way towards building your credibility with prospects.
5. Credibility of the client
Last but not least, one of the biggest influences on your credibility as a freelancer is the credibility of the clients who have hired you. Of course, the bigger, more recognizable, and esteemed the client, the more weight their testimonial carries.
The natural consequence of this is that you want your most notable clients to write you the best testimonials, because that’s what will be most effective at convincing leads to hire you.
Be careful, however; this tip is a double-edged sword. Just as a solid testimonial from a highly credible client (like Nike) can bolster your reputation, praises from completely unknown, small-time customers can sometimes hurt your image. Especially if you’re gunning for clients in the big leagues, if all they see are testimonials from names they don’t recognize, they may discard you as a small-time contractor that doesn’t suit their needs.
If your freelance career is still in its infancy and you don’t yet have the big clients to boost your image, never fear. Plenty others have been in your same situation (including myself) and made it to bigger and better clients.
In that situation, the key is to start with testimonials from small-time clients. Then, aim for slightly more recognizable businesses that still aren’t huge names (targeting mid-sized clients will net you a higher success rate). As you get more recognizable clients, replace the testimonials from the unknowns with reviews from the well-knowns, and repeat the process, this time aiming for projects with even more credible businesses.
As a general rule, almost any positive words from clients will help build your image in your industry and improve your reputation. However, some testimonials are a lot more effective at that than others.
What separates the wheat from the chaff are these five characteristics we discussed above. I guarantee that when you start getting your clients to incorporate these five strategies into the testimonials they write, you’ll see a near-instant increase in lead-to-client conversion rate.
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